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What’s New with InDesign CC 2017

Small tweaks and fixes—along with a new file format—mark the 12th major version of InDesign.

InDesign Magazine Issue 91: InDesign Magic
This article appeared in Issue 91 of InDesign Magazine.

Adobe seems to have some confusion about dates. Throughout 2016, the most up-to-date versions of InDesign CC have been called InDesign CC 2015. Now, just before the end of 2016, a new version arrives called InDesign CC 2017 (Figure 1). I think we can attribute this to the strange quirks of Adobe Marketing.

This new version is significant because it’s a major update that requires a new file format version. This means that if someone using InDesign CC 2017 creates a new file, and you open it using an earlier version of InDesign CC, the Creative Cloud will convert the file to your older version. (There were five versions of InDesign CC 2015. No conversion was necessary between those versions.) If you’re unfamiliar with the process, I’ll explain how it works at the end of the article.

Figure 1: Do not adjust your calendars; “2017” is arriving a little early.

Figure 1: Do not adjust your calendars; “2017” is arriving a little early.

That said, even though this is considered a major update, longtime users will be disappointed to hear that there are very few new features in this release. Instead, this update concentrates on bringing enhancements to existing features—including footnotes, OpenType features, arrowheads applied to strokes, and the appearance of the user interface.

Support for Spanning Footnotes

Ever since InDesign’s footnote feature was introduced, footnotes inserted into multi-column text frames were always placed in the same column where the footnote reference appeared. For many years, users have been asking for the option to span footnotes across all the columns of the text frame.

Now, in InDesign CC 2017, you can choose either column-wide footnotes or footnotes that span the full width of the text frame. You can also mix the two styles of footnotes in the same document (Figure 2).

Figure 2: You can now create both traditional single-column footnotes or footnotes that span the width of a frame.

Figure 2: You can now create both traditional single-column footnotes or footnotes that span the width of a frame.

In the Layout panel of the Document Footnote Options dialog box, there is a new option: Span Footnotes Across Columns. Choosing this option establishes a document default for all footnotes to span the width of the frame.

If you open an existing document, footnotes will behave as they have in the past, unless you select the new option to span columns. For a new document, the Span Footnotes option is selected by default, but you can match the old behavior by deselecting the option with no documents open.

You can override the document default in the new Object > Text Frame Options > Footnotes panel for the current text frame. To override the document default, select Enable Overrides, and check or uncheck Span Footnotes Across Columns. This same panel also includes the choices for Minimum Space Before First Footnote and Space Between Footnotes (Figure 3).

Figure 3: You can override the document footnotes setting in the new Footnotes tab of the Text Frame Options dialog box.

Figure 3: You can override the document footnotes setting in the new Footnotes tab of the Text Frame Options dialog box.

To support this new feature, there is also a new object style option: Text Frame Footnote Options. In addition, this same option is found in the Find/Change Object properties.

Applying OpenType Features Contextually

OpenType fonts can include a wide variety of typographic features, but until now, it was a bit of a hassle to find out which OpenType features were available in a particular font. You had to go to the Control panel or Character panel menu, choose OpenType, and then check a list of possible OpenType features (sometimes in a submenu) to see which ones were available for the current font. In particular, stylistic sets (discussed below) were very difficult to use (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The traditional way to view and turn on OpenType options requires navigating though lots of menus.

Figure 4: The traditional way to view and turn on OpenType options requires navigating though lots of menus.

InDesign CC 2017 builds on earlier OpenType enhancements, and it’s now possible to see contextually which features can be applied, and to apply them directly.

Adding an OpenType “Adornment” on Text Frames

The little widgets attached to objects in the InDesign interface (such as the in and out ports of text frames) are technically called adornments. They let you choose options “in context” instead of going to a menu or dialog box. Adornments we use already include the little blue box (Anchored Object Control) and yellow box (Live Corners) already on our frames. InDesign CC 2017 adds another adornment at the bottom right of a text frame to allow you to view and apply OpenType features (Figure 5). It uses the slanted “O” icon, already found in font menus, which indicates an OpenType font.

Figure 5: A new OpenType adornment gives you “in context” control of OpenType features.

Figure 5: A new OpenType adornment gives you “in context” control of OpenType features.

If you select a single unlinked text frame, InDesign will try to determine which OpenType properties are applicable within that frame and provide options for you to apply them. (If your frame doesn’t contain an OpenType font, you’ll get the message, “OpenType properties are not applicable.”)

Clicking on the OpenType adornment opens a contextual menu showing a list of applicable attributes. You can choose to turn on attributes within the frame from the menu. The display will also attempt to highlight which characters will be affected by a particular attribute. In Figure 6, discretionary ligatures and OpenType fractions have already been checked, and a preview of those features shows in the display.

Figure 6: When you click the adornment, you can preview and turn on available choices.

Figure 6: When you click the adornment, you can preview and turn on available choices.

In fact, the adornment is also available when you make a selection with the Type tool, and it appears at the bottom right corner of your selection.

Notice in Figure 6 that you may still have to tweak the type. Selecting Fractions in the contextual menu could convert every combination of “number-slash-number” to a fraction—even dates such as 9/11.

Contextual Menu for Ordinals and Ligatures

The InDesign CC 2015.2 update brought a contextual menu for alternate glyphs and for OpenType fractions. InDesign CC 2017 adds similar contextual menus for ordinals and discretionary or standard ligatures.

For example, if you select a letter pair like st in the word start, and a discretionary ligature is available in the current font, it will be suggested and can be selected (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Contextual menus are now available for ordinals and ligatures.

Figure 7: Contextual menus are now available for ordinals and ligatures.

Similarly, if you select a number such as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc., the menu suggests the ordinal versions if they are available in the current font. Currently, this feature is only available for the English language.

Using the Mysterious OpenType Stylistic Sets

Some OpenType fonts with many alternate characters have them grouped into stylistic sets. This rather mysterious feature is finally made accessible and understandable in this InDesign release.

Stylistic sets are preselected groupings which allow for the global insertion of anywhere from one to twenty sets of alternates. This eliminates the task of selecting each alternate character individually, which is time consuming in large amounts of text.

Unlike with character styles, you can apply more than one stylistic set to a single block of text. Turning on each additional set adds new alternates.

Some earlier OpenType fonts (such as the richly styled Gabriola font from Microsoft) may simply number the sets: Set 1, Set 2, Set 3, and so on. That makes them particularly mysterious, because you have to experiment to discover what the set actually does.

Other more recent fonts give meaningful names that make them easier and more efficient to work with. For example, Hypatia Sans Pro has 14 stylistic sets with names such as “Stylistic set: sans serif forms,” “Stylistic set: simple lowercase forms,” and so on.

In previous InDesign versions, if a font had named stylistic sets, only their numbers were displayed, and the names were ignored. Now they are named wherever they are referenced in InDesign. You’ll see them in the Glyphs panel Show menu (which displays glyphs by their attributes), in the Character and Control panel menus (OpenType > Stylistic Sets), and in the Character Styles and Paragraph Styles OpenType Features entries.

Even better, when combined with the OpenType contextual menu for a text frame or selection, you can see where the alternate forms will be applied, and turn them on and off easily. Figure 8 shows an example of two alternate glyphs for the letter a, one of the many sets included in Hypatia Sans Pro.

Figure 8: It’s now easy to see which stylistic sets are available in a font and to preview their effect. Above (top), you see the default lowercase a in Hypatia Sans Pro. Underneath, you see a preview of the alternate glyph “simple a” in Hypatia Sans Pro.

Figure 8: It’s now easy to see which stylistic sets are available in a font and to preview their effect. Above (top), you see the default lowercase a in Hypatia Sans Pro. Underneath, you see a preview of the alternate glyph “simple a” in Hypatia Sans Pro.

Turning Off Contextual Controls

Of course, not everyone wants to see the various adornments that InDesign turns on by default. Fortunately, you can turn off the Live Corners  and Anchored Object Control adornments in the View > Extras submenu. Strangely, the new OpenType adornment is not listed there.

Instead, there are two new controls in Preferences > Advanced Type that let you turn off the contextual OpenType displays. The first one turns off contextual controls for character alternates, fractions, ordinals, and ligatures. The second one turns off the OpenType adornment on text frames (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Advanced Type preferences include controls to turn off OpenType contextual displays.

Figure 9: Advanced Type preferences include controls to turn off OpenType contextual displays.

Arrowhead Scaling Control

Adobe Illustrator’s Stroke panel options were similar to those found in InDesign, but Illustrator has always offered more control over arrowhead scaling. Specifically, InDesign lacked the ability to do the following four things:

  • Scale beginning and ending arrowheads independently
  • Link the beginning and ending arrowheads so they could be kept in proportion as they are scaled
  • Swap the start and end arrowheads
  • Control how the arrowhead tips are placed in relation to the path ends

All these features are found in InDesign CC 2017 (Figure 10).

Figure 10: New arrowhead scaling controls in the Stroke panel now match those in Adobe Illustrator. #1, Start and End values both set to 100%; the Start value appears out of scale for the stroke weight. #2, with the Link option deselected, when the Start value is changed to 50% to produce a better result, the End value is not changed. #3, to scale both Start and End in proportion, click the Lock option. When the Start value is set to 60%, the End value is automatically changed to 120%. #4 has the same values as in #3, but the “Swap start and end arrowheads” icon is clicked.

Figure 10: New arrowhead scaling controls in the Stroke panel now match those in Adobe Illustrator. #1, Start and End values both set to 100%; the Start value appears out of scale for the stroke weight. #2, with the Link option deselected, when the Start value is changed to 50% to produce a better result, the End value is not changed. #3, to scale both Start and End in proportion, click the Lock option. When the Start value is set to 60%, the End value is automatically changed to 120%. #4 has the same values as in #3, but the “Swap start and end arrowheads” icon is clicked.

Now, both the beginning and ending arrowheads have an option to set the percentage of scaling, found underneath the appropriate Start/End menu of arrowhead choices in the Stroke panel. As in other places in the InDesign interface, a “link” icon can be turned on or off. This time, the link is called “Link start and end arrowhead scales.” When the link is clicked on, if you enter a new value for the start arrowhead, the end arrowhead scaling will change in proportion.

Arrowhead alignment options

In addition, there are two new Align options: arrowheads can be aligned so the arrowhead extends beyond the path end, or aligns just to the end of the path. This setting applies both to the beginning and ending arrowheads. In example 3 in Figure 10, I selected the former option (and selected the Direct Selection tool to show the path ends).

Conveniently, this feature is also found in three other areas of the InDesign interface:

  • Object Styles Stroke & Corner Options
  • Find Object Format Options in the Object tab of the Find/Change dialog box
  • Eyedropper Options (double-click the Eyedropper tool); three new choices here are arrowhead tip alignment, scale factor for start arrowhead, and scale factor for end arrowhead

Reducing Eyestrain Redux

In the most recent release of InDesign CC 2015 (2015.4), various controls were increased in size and spaced farther apart. Making the controls larger worked well for users of HiDPI or Retina displays, but it caused havoc with others on older (and smaller) displays.

Because users can now see fewer controls on the Control panel, the Customize control (already available) has been made more discoverable. The control is now visible as a “gear” icon on the right end of the Control panel above the panel menu. Clicking it reveals the appropriate tool widget choices immediately, so less useful ones can be turned off.

Many users also complained that the height of window tabs (where the filename appears) had become too large. So there is a new preference: Preferences > Interface > Panels > Large Tabs, which can be turned off to make them smaller.

Hyperlink Performance Improvement

If a document has hyperlinks with destinations in other documents, InDesign must open those documents in the background to check them. Unfortunately, in long documents with many hyperlinks, this makes basic operations, like opening the Hyperlinks panel, scrolling through it, or editing hyperlinks, very slow.

The engineers have refined the algorithm for this process, and it has become much more efficient, giving a much improved performance over previous InDesign versions.

Opening InDesign CC 2017 Files in an Earlier Version

In the InDesign CC 2014.2 update (January 2014), a new feature made opening files from newer versions possible if you have a Creative Cloud subscription. If you are using the subscription version of CS6, or InDesign CC, CC 2014, or CC 2015 when you attempt to open an InDesign CC 2017 file, you’ll see a dialog box telling you that the file needs to be converted to your application version. It also warns that features in the newer version may be modified or omitted. All you have to do is click the Convert button, and the Creative Cloud will convert it.

InDesign CC 2017: Small Steps Forward

While this new release offers only incremental improvements, many of them are in response to long-standing feature requests. Try them out, and I think you’ll be pleased, especially if your documents include footnotes, hyperlinks, OpenType fonts, or arrows.

Steve Werner

Steve Werner

Steve Werner is a trainer, consultant, and co-author (with David Blatner and Christopher Smith) of InDesign for QuarkXPress Users and Moving to InDesign. He has worked in the graphic arts industry for more than 20 years and was the training manager for ten years at Rapid Lasergraphics. He has taught computer graphics classes since 1988.
Steve Werner

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111 Comments on “What’s New with InDesign CC 2017

  1. Here’s I did for years, without installing any scripts or plug-ins, it has worked perfectly for me.

    E.g. if you need to set a lot of Arabic or other ME characters, exclusively OR mixed with Roman characters, simply:
    – Go to your CC app
    – Click the gear icon
    – Go to Preferences
    – Click ‘Creative Cloud’
    – Select ‘English بدعم العربية ‘
    – Now install InDesign, and it will have all the ME options standard in your menu.

  2. Any improvement to the speed of documents that include page references which are in other documents? In the past, documents with page references to other documents have been very slow to open.

  3. It’s a bit disheartening to see yet another minimal release.

    While of course there are many serious features that expert users would like to see, I’d love to see some solid design features added to InDesign. There’s almost nothing we can design today that we couldn’t have designed (with a little more effort) in InDesign v2.0. Even features like alternate rounded corners were possible with scripts before they were built in.

    Why can’t we apply a blur or other Photoshop filter in the same way we apply a blend mode? Or use fancier lines like Illustrator does? Or treat a shaded background as an object, with a border and rounded corners? Or have transparency as a component of a swatch? Or even use Emoji in an InDesign layout? Designers have pretty thoroughly explored what can be done with InDesign alone, and the innovative stuff now has to be done in other apps. Photoshop and Illustrator have had some decent upgrades — why not InDesign?

  4. I cannot get the Open Type contextual controls to show up no matter what. Turning preferences on or off does not help either. (Using 12.0.0.81 Build) Any idea what I could try to enable it?

    • I’ve the same issu but only with older indd files. Once I create a new document, I can use the open type contextual controls. I still don’t know how to enable it for older file. I already try to save the older documents as IDML format and open it as new indd format but it doesn’t work.

      • You’re lucky. I can’t get it to work with brand new or older files, yet my co-workers don’t have the same problem.

  5. It’s about Apple rather than Adobe, but ID users might find this look at Apple’s unusual organizational structure interesting:

    http://www.vox.com/new-money/2016/11/27/13706776/apple-functional-divisional

    As I understand it, Adobe has the more traditional divisional structure, although organized around products rather than broader markets such as publishing, A/V, and the like. Correct me if that’s wrong—and I may be. Here’s a partial org chart of Adobe that only leaves me more confused. Is ID under “Design, Creative Cloud” along with all Adobe’s other apps? I can’t tell, but if that is so then it is in low-level one box in that chart with no less that five boxes further up that have marketing in their name. I gripe that Apple is increasingly being driven by its marketing department. That may be more true of Adobe.

    http://www.theofficialboard.com/org-chart/adobe

    In the end and from the perspective of users, Adobe and Apple have similar problems. Users feel that certain products important to them are being slighted. With Apple, it’s professional users who need powerful desktops and laptops rather than pretty toys (iMacs) and obsessively thin laptops. The new Macbook Pros are hardly worth four years of waiting—hence the current howls of protest. And it is absurd to suggest that a Apple’s high-end desktop, now three years old, is state of the art in anything but its inflated price.

    InDesign 2017 is similarly frustrating to the point of being insulting. Creating a new document format merely to add multi-column footnotes? That’s a bit like a major automaker announcing a new model car with a “bold new design in armrests” as its primary selling point. I’m sure that’s a feature some need but its hardly something to get excited about.

    —–

    I’ve written a book on administrative follies in another context. Senior Nurse Mentor builds on my experience working at a top-ten children’s hospital where the nurses were so badly treated, some 20% quit in a matter of weeks and finding replacements became almost impossible. To the extent that there was a single cause, it lay in promoting people too stupid to make it as nurses into the lowest level of nursing administration. There they hated nurses with talent and made life difficult for them. When I asked a nursing professor why any hospital would do that, she replied in a flash that hospital administrators want head nurses stupid enough to do as they’re told without protest. It’s apparently a common problem in hospitals. It’s why I placed my suggested senior nurse mentor completely outside the hospital’s administrative structure.

    When I lived in Seattle, I knew people on InDesign’s development team and they were talented people who were fighting those over them to get adequate funding for ID improvements. My hunch, depressing as it is, is that the move to India was intended to create a development team that will passively endure being underfunded. If I were on such a team I’d do what the nurses I was working with did and quit in disgust.

    As boring as organization charts and promotion policies are, they establish the incentitives that then drive how a business or hospital functions. If you don’t have someone—my suggestion for a senior nurse mentor—looking out for nursing morale, it will go bad. If you don’t have people whose career centers on the success of certain products—such as the success of Apple’s desktops and laptops—then those products don’t improve in ways that users like and buy. Put the design of products under artists (Jonathan Ive) and you get products that are artsy. Add an industrial engineer to the mix (Tim Cook) and you get stripped down, cheap-to-make products. Dominate your org chart with marketing people (Adobe) and you get a product line driven by more by glitz that than solid improvements to products like InDesign that lack pizazz. Companies live or die by how they are organized and the incentitives they establish for executives.

    And for the record, my resignation from that hospital, only a few weeks before that mass exodus, was a letter addressed to the head of nursing that described three serious problems on the adolescent unit where I was working. I didn’t openly state “and these problems exist because our head nurse is harshly critical and incompetent,” but I was well aware that was implied by my remarks. I did not go quietly but, given what soon happened, I sometimes wonder if I should have departed with a bit more noise. When a general hospital in a major city goes into a crisis, there are numerous other hospitals in the city where patients can go. The one where I worked was the top-tier children’s hospital for one quarter the land area of the U.S. Going elsewhere was exceedinging difficult.

    And ‘going elsewhere’ is what I’ve done with Apple. I’ve maxed out my 2012 Mac mini because I suspect I may never see a good desktop from Apple again. And I’ve removed laptops from my workflow, substituting an iPad for my writing, because I feel the same about Apple’s laptops. In the smartphone and tablet markets, Apple has to compete. Elsewhere, it doesn’t seem to care what savvy buyers think. I can only assume it wants stupid customers because the also do what they’re told.

    Adobe’s InDesign is now in my doubtful category. I got burned once when Adobe quit making Framemaker for Macs. I’m taking care not to get burned again if InDesign development continues underfunded and stalled. Adobe has failed to deliver on what it promised when it went to a Creative Cloud business model. It’s failing to deliver a constant stream of updates to ID sufficient to justify the $240 a year I pay them. Just look at the current situation. For over $360 in my money, I’ve been offered a ID-2017 so useless, I’ve not even bothered to download it.

    Nor is that all I am doing. Up to a few months ago, I encouraged writers to publish using InDesign, although I stressed that it should be $10 a month like Photoshop not $20. Now I’m discouraging that. I don’t want to condemn them to Adobe’s dreadful InDesign development limbo.

    One of my business policies might be called “deliver or die.” With ID, Adobe is not delivering.

    –Mike Perry, Inkling Books, Auburn, AL (where Tim Cook studied industrial engineering)

    • Mike – great post.

      My frustration with the move to India is that it further silos the engineering team into a much narrower cultural mindset. If most of the users are non-Indian, how can they understand our needs? They really ought to have a broad mix of people in various parts of the world. Diversity is critically important in a global industry.

      I can only hope & pray that Affinity Publisher will come out soon and be good enough to use. It doesn’t have to be better; just good enough to stop paying Adobe. I expect to try it in parallel with InDesign, use it for smaller projects, and hope that within a few versions it will be good enough to start cutting into Adobe’s subscription base. At that point, Adobe will either sue them, buy them, or invest some money in InDesign. Or maybe they just won’t care. Time will tell.

      Meanwhile, I really think we need to put pressure on Adobe. I’ve thought about things like the following: if you don’t renew your subscription, you can go 30 days before paying again. So, if once a year, a large number Adobe users suspended their accounts, waited 30 days, and then re-purchased, it would cut into Adobe’s revenue. But it’s just a fantasy; I can’t imagine enough people getting together to do that. I do think we need to get louder and in Adobe’s face. If I were near Adobe MAX I would go there with a protest sign. But it’s not worth paying to travel for that. But anytime anyone attends an Adobe sponsored event, or a speech by an Adobe rep, they should make their views heard.

  6. I have what seems to be a strange bug with this new version. It will not let me select more than one paragragh to change the space-after or the indentation. I have to do it one at a time. Is this actually a bug? Or is the program trying to force people to use paragragph styles?

      • I can choose more than one paragraph, but when I try to make a formatting change the section to type in the amount of space, or the font size, etc is grayed out.

      • When you select more than one paragraph and a field is blank, it usually indicates that the paragraphs currently have different settings. But you should still be able to place your cursor in there, type a value, and hit Enter. That will apply the new setting to all the selected paragraphs.